Soulive on Sunday

For those of you who don’t read the Record all the way through (I’m one of you, too), I’ll keep it brief: jazz-groove-funk band Soulive will play in Goodrich Hall Sunday, May 14, 2000, at 9:30 p.m. Williams favorites Fat Cat Sampson will open for the group at 9 p.m. The show is being sponsored by WCFM Williamstown.

While less-inquiring minds will be satisfied by the above paragraph, I know that you, the slightly more inquiring reader, would like to know more about the upcoming concert. Soulive is comprised of a trio of musicians, featuring brothers Neal and Alan Evans on Hammond B-3 organ and drums, respectively; and guitar sensation Eric Krasno (himself a former student of Williams’ own jazz director, Andy Jaffe).

Consider this: Soulive formed just over a year ago, in March 1999. Since that time, it has established a large and growing Northeast following; it has been featured with rave reviews in many publications from The Boston Globe to the real deal and all signs are pointing towards the continued success of the band. This Sunday is your chance to say, “I saw them when…” And for what it’s worth, let me offer my personal opinion: this band is simply amazing.

For evidence of the band’s prodigious talent, check out its 1999 full-length debut, Turn it Out, available on Velour Recordings. Listen with an open mind, and it becomes obvious why Soulive’s sound is so hard to categorize. Fans of organ jazz will most likely pick up on the elements of Jimmy Smith in Neal Evans; fusion cats will swear they hear some Hancock; neo-hippies may jump at the mesmerizingly intense jams; others may notice hip-hop elements in the drumming of Alan Evans. While these elements are there, the more astounding fact is that this is not recycling. In an age where most “new” music sounds like throwbacks to an earlier age, this is something new. Soulive is coming!

While it might be easiest to call Soulive a jazz act, it is jazz without the stuffy connotations. Make no mistake: this is not your parents’ jazz. All the guys in the band are under 25 – and they have the funk. You can hear it on Turn it Out – those moments where the groove is completely locked and the band sails out over uncharted waters, unafraid of the occasional missed note, never afraid to try a new idea, always pushing the envelope of its music. It is there in the rhythmic urgency of “Uncle Junior,” the laid-back funk of “Rudy’s Way,” and the sublime cuts “Azucar” and “Arruga de Agua.” It is hard to even find a dull spot on Turn it Out, so why nit-pick?

As an objective listener, I can promise you just one thing: the live cuts on the album crush the studio tracks like grapes. Did I mention they are playing here, at Williams College, next Sunday?

You can call Soulive jazz, funk, groove-jazz, even a “jam band” – but when the music’s so damn good, why spend your time coming up with a label for it? You’d be missing the point. Soulive is about the groove and the funk. This is jazz for the new millenium. So leave your preconceptions behind, “hang up your hang-ups” (as Herbie Hancock would have it), and enjoy the music. You will not regret it.

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